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Tips For RVing With An Elderly Or Sick Pet

RVing with your pet(s) can be the thing that makes your RV experience the most rewarding and memorable.  Our pets are family, and hitting the road without them just isn’t the same.

If you’re switching over from the sticks and bricks lifestyle to full-time RVing, you are probably already familiar with the many adjustments that have to be made to accommodate your 4-legged kiddo.

Hitting the Road with Elder Pups - RV'ing with an Elderly or Sick Pet
Hitting the road with elder pups.  Golda (left) is 14, and Chitlin is 14 and a half. Photo by Shannon Goins, author. Life, Other Than Travel Blog

In addition to ensuring that Fido isn’t barking up a storm while you are out having dinner or running to the grocery store, you are having to ensure that he or she is allowed in the RV park where you plan to stay.

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If Fido has brothers and sisters, there may be limits to how many of them can accompany you, as well as breed or size restrictions.

Outside temps are always a concern because electricity in RV parks is notorious for failing.  There are also time limits on outings where pets are not allowed because Fido will need to go out to potty.

You may also have to pay particular attention simply to opening the door.  Fifi may be able to scale the walls, shoot out the door, and climb a tree before you have time to set down your cup of coffee.

These and many other concerns about traveling with a pet are par for the course when it comes to RVing.  Our furry family members require us to be extra diligent to ensure they are cared for properly while on the road.

If your pet is elderly, sick, or becomes ill along the way, there are several other concerns that you will need to address to make certain that your four-legged friend stays safe and that you both have a good journey.

Is it safe for the pet to travel?

When you are planning on RVing with an elderly or sick pet you should first decide if the pet is well enough to travel.  Some types of illnesses such as diabetes or seizures are usually manageable with medications and are not necessarily a reason not to travel with your pet.

Other conditions, such as arthritis and kidney failure, may be based on how far advanced the disease has progressed and its prognosis during the time you plan to be underway.  Oftentimes, travel is safe with necessary accommodations.

Older dogs can require special accommodations - like lots of soft places to land when their mobility is impaired.
Older dogs can require special accommodations – like lots of soft places to land when their mobility is impaired. Don’t be too attached to your floor space. Photo by Shannon Goins, author. Life, Other Than Travel Blog

Are you willing to alter your plans?

If (or when) your pet’s condition worsens, are you willing to make changes to your agenda so that your pet does not undergo any unnecessary stress or discomfort?

If you are on the road full-time this means you might need to set down in one place near veterinary services in order to make sure your pet has what he or she needs.  For people who do not like being in one place for long, this can be a difficult thing to do.  Make sure you are willing to stop traveling when the time is right.

Golda on her 15th birthday on the Washington Coast.
Golda on her 15th birthday on the Washington Coast. We stayed here for many months because her sister, Chitlin’ was no longer able to travel. Photo by Shannon Goins, author. Life, Other Than Travel Blog

Are you OK with saying goodbye on the road?

RVing with an elderly or sick pet means that you are more likely to be faced with tough decisions along the way than someone traveling with a young and healthy fur baby.

Health can be unpredictable the older and sicker pets are, and it is possible that you may be faced with saying goodbye while in an unfamiliar place with a vet you have never met before.

While it is difficult to think about this particular scenario, it is important that you take it into consideration before heading out with Fido or Fifi.

Golda and I on the Oregon Coast.
Golda and I on the Oregon Coast. Not too long after Chitlin’ had passed, Golda and I hit the road again. We have now settled again in Arizona as Golda is approaching 17 and is in her last few months. Photo by Shannon Goins, author. Life, Other Than Travel Blog

How to be prepared

If you’ve thought through the three questions above and have decided to proceed with a road trip with your furry pal, there are steps that you can take to help make certain that you have access to everything you need when you need it.

Having a pet’s medical records handy is a good idea for any pet parent on the road, but it is even more critical when the pet is advanced in years or infirmed.  If you find yourself unexpectedly at the vet, being able to hand over records can help a vet unfamiliar with your pet make better-informed decisions about appropriate care.

Chitlin' on her 15th birthday - off the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia.
Chitlin’ on her 15th birthday enjoying apples and peanut butter – off the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia. Photo by Shannon Goins, author. Life, Other Than Travel Blog

At the very least you should have current vaccination records and the last year or two of veterinary visits, as well as surgery and medication lists.  If you are traveling out of the country, be sure that you also have the necessary health inspection paperwork for international travel.

Keep a printed copy in the RV, a printed copy in your tow vehicle, a digital copy on a cloud service such as Dropbox which can be accessed anywhere, and for safe measure, email yourself a copy in case all other methods fail.

Know where to get medications and special items along the way

Leaving home you probably have packed all of Fido and Fifi’s medications, special foods, and the like.  You may even have a full 6-month supply of these items.  Being prepared is never a bad thing.

However, all kinds of stuff can happen that can mean that you must replace those items in a matter of hours.  If your pet is on a highly-restricted diet and you’re in the middle of the Yukon, do you know how to find its replacement?  What about medications?

Golda staring out the back window in rural coastal Washington.
Golda staring out the back window in rural coastal Washington. Photo by Shannon Goins, author. Life, Other Than Travel Blog

It is best to have an idea of where those items can be found ahead of time.  Don’t assume that since you get a special food at a chain store that all stores in that chain carry it.  Likewise, not all veterinarians keep the same medications in stock.  Call ahead of time and check.

This can seem like an overwhelming task, but if you’ve done your homework ahead of time emergencies often can be mitigated quickly.

It’s worth the effort

Traveling with a pet who may not be around much longer can be difficult because of all of the planning and precautions.  But if your pet is up to making the trip, it is worth every single bit of effort.

pet
Old, but still enjoying the adventure. Chitlin’ and Golda reveling in a stroll near Delta Junction, Alaska.  Having owned my own business for many years, I did not spend as much time as I wanted to with them.  I can think of no better way to have spent the last couple of years than traveling with them making memories. Photo by Shannon Goins, author. Life, Other Than Travel Blog

There is no price that can be put on the memories that you will make together along the way.  Those memories will continue to warm your heart long after they are no longer there to warm your lap.

See also: Keep Your Four-Legged Friends Warm With These Essential Items